Trump: Immediate Release of Warrant 08/12 06:12
Former President Donald Trump called late Thursday for the "immediate"
release of the federal warrant the FBI used to search his Florida estate, hours
after the Justice Department had asked a court to unseal the warrant, with
Attorney General Merrick Garland citing the "substantial public interest in
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former President Donald Trump called late Thursday for
the "immediate" release of the federal warrant the FBI used to search his
Florida estate, hours after the Justice Department had asked a court to unseal
the warrant, with Attorney General Merrick Garland citing the "substantial
public interest in this matter."
In messages posted on his Truth Social platform, Trump wrote, "Not only will
I not oppose the release of documents ... I am going a step further by
ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents." He continued to assail
the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago as "unAmerican, unwarranted and unnecessary."
"Release the documents now!" he wrote.
The Justice Department request earlier Thursday is striking because such
documents traditionally remain sealed during a pending investigation. But the
department appeared to recognize that its silence since the search had created
a vacuum for bitter verbal attacks by Trump and his allies, and that the public
was entitled to the FBI's side about what prompted Monday's action at the
former president's home.
"The public's clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred
under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing," said a motion
filed in federal court in Florida on Thursday.
Should the warrant be released -- the request is now with the judge -- it
could disclose unflattering information about the former president and about
FBI scrutiny of his handling of sensitive government documents right as he
prepares for another run for the White House. During his successful 2016
campaign, he pointed frequently to an FBI investigation into his Democratic
opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she mishandled classified information.
It's unclear at this point how much information would be included in the
documents, if made public, or if they would encompass an FBI affidavit that
would presumably lay out a detailed factual basis for the search. The
department specifically requested the unsealing of the warrant as well as a
property receipt listing the items that were seized, along with two unspecified
To obtain a search warrant, federal authorities must prove to a judge that
probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed. Garland said he
personally approved the warrant, a decision he said the department did not take
lightly given that standard practice where possible is to select less intrusive
tactics than a search of one's home.
In this case, according to a person familiar with the matter, there was
substantial engagement with Trump and his representatives prior to the search
warrant, including a subpoena for records and a visit to Mar-a-Lago a couple of
months ago by FBI and Justice Department officials to assess how the documents
were stored. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and
spoke on condition of anonymity.
Neither Trump nor the FBI has said anything about what documents the FBI
might have recovered, or what precisely agents were looking for. But the former
president complained anew Thursday about the search.
Trump, who for years has lambasted the FBI and sought to sow distrust among
his supporters in its decisions, said the warrant was served and the search
conducted despite his cooperation with the Justice Department over the search.
In a post to his Truth Social platform, Trump said that his "attorneys and
representatives were cooperating fully" prior to the search, and that
government officials "could have had whatever they wanted, whenever they
wanted, if we had it."
The Justice Department has until Friday afternoon to alert the judge about
whether Trump will object to the release.
FBI and Justice Department policy cautions against discussing ongoing
investigations, both to protect the integrity of probes and to avoid unfairly
maligning someone who is being scrutinized but winds up ultimately not being
charged. That's especially true in the case of search warrants, where
supporting court papers are routinely kept secret as the investigation proceeds.
In this case, though, Garland cited the fact that Trump himself had provided
the first public confirmation of the FBI search, "as is his right." The Justice
Department, in its new filing, also said that disclosing information about it
now would not harm the court's functions.
Even so, Garland, in a hastily scheduled public statement delivered from the
Justice Department podium, appeared to acknowledge the unusual nature of the
department's request as he declined to take questions or provide any
substantive details about the FBI's investigation.
"Much of our work is by necessity conducted out of the public eye. We do
that to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to protect the
integrity of our investigations," he said. "Federal law, longstanding
department rules and our ethical obligations prevent me from providing further
details as to the basis of the search at this time."
The Justice Department under Garland has been leery of public statements
about politically charged investigations, or of confirming to what extent it
might be investigating Trump as part of a broader probe into the Jan. 6 riot at
the U.S. Capitol and efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The department has tried to avoid being seen as injecting itself into
presidential politics, as happened in 2016 when then-FBI Director James Comey
made an unusual public statement announcing that the FBI would not be
recommending criminal charges against Clinton regarding her handling of email
-- and when he spoke up again just over a week before the election to notify
Congress that the probe was being effectively reopened because of the discovery
of new emails.
The Mar-a-Lago search warrant served Monday was part of an ongoing Justice
Department investigation into the discovery of classified White House records
recovered from Trump's home in Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this year. The
National Archives had asked the department to investigate after saying 15 boxes
of records it retrieved from the estate included classified records. Multiple
federal laws govern the handling of classified information.
The attorney general also condemned verbal attacks on FBI and Justice
Department personnel over the search. Some Republican allies of Trump have
called for the FBI to be defunded. Large numbers of Trump supporters have
called for the warrant to be released hoping they it will show that Trump was
"I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,"
Garland said of federal law enforcement agents, calling them "dedicated,
patriotic public servants."
Earlier Thursday, an armed man wearing body armor tried to breach a security
screening area at an FBI field office in Ohio, then fled and was later killed
after a standoff with law enforcement. A law enforcement official briefed on
the matter identified the man as Ricky Shiffer and said he is believed to have
been in Washington in the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol and may
have been there on the day it took place.